This article title is simple in nature but can be complicated in terms of execution. The shoulder-turn. A common golf term used to describe the circuitous path that the shoulders trace in the backswing and then on the thru swing. If the shoulder turn is so often discussed then why is there so much hype surrounding it? It’s because, in it’s simplicity, it’s a complicated and contradictory feeling when compared to most sports people play. In this video and article, I will show you how to achieve a proper, body-friendly shoulder turn while also highlighting the differences between a proper and improper shoulder turn.
What’s a Proper Shoulder Turn?
Aside from the setup, the most important key for striking the golf ball solidly (with a nice divot after the ball), is the motion of the shoulders. The main goal of the shoulders is to turn them while maintaining your body’s inclination to the golf ball. Assuming you have a good setup, this would mean turning your shoulders at approximately 90 degrees to your spine (as shown below):
With a shoulder turn like this, it’s easier to return the club to the ball in the same place every time–a key for consistently good contact.
What a Proper Turn Does for You
A proper shoulder turn does the following with your swing:
- Allows for a Simple and Effortless Backswing: The golf club is attached to the hands, which is attached to the arms, and, consequently, the shoulders. With a proper shoulder turn, the golf club will trace an on-plane path, following the motion of your body. There will be less of a need to rely on swing positions. Instead, you can just SWING.
- Allows for the Correct Body Pivot: As the shoulder turns, the body reacts. With a good shoulder turn, the body can pivot with more power potential, allowing the hips to turn more and also freeing up more shoulder turn.
- Decreases body stress and pain: As the golfer maintains their incline to the ball in the swing, the upper back controls the shoulder turn. This is good. The upper back is designed to handle turning. When the golfer loses their incline to the ball, the shoulders turn level and cause a great deal of stress on the lower back. In addition, a poor shoulder turn may prevent mobility which can place stress on other parts of your body.
A Real-Life Example
This is one of my students. He has arthritis in the middle of his back and it is a very sensitive area for him. He turned his shoulders level to the ground with caused a myriad of swing problems as well as body pain. Turning his shoulders level caused his body to behave in a disconnected fashion. As a result:
- His lower body did not turn
- His arms disconnected from his body in the swing
- His swing became steep and choppy (causing tops, slices, fat shots)
- He experienced off-balanced swing behavior
Take a look at his takeaway below. You can already see the disconnected swing forming:
The red lines represent the ideal shoulder plane for his swing. The yellow lines represent his current level shoulder turn. Look at the legs, they appear locked and uncomfortable. They are absorbing a ton of stress. The lower back is also locked. The is very little freedom of motion.
Unlocking Your Shoulder Turn
As with my student, I will recommend the same drill to you. This is great to work on in the winter months while you prepare for the upcoming golf season. Check out the result of it below:
My student was able to increase his shoulder turn by allowing the shoulders to turn 90 degrees to the spine. And:
- His lower body was free to pivot
- His upper back turned while his lower back remained stress-free
- He maintained his inclination to the ball
The Shoulder Turn Drill
The drill is very simple and will help you to achieve the proper feeling of a good shoulder turn. You can then build the feeling from the drill into the full swing for best results.
How to do the Drill
(I recommend doing this in a mirror as well) Find your proper shoulder turn by doing the following:
- Grab a golf club, alignment stick, or other similar object.
- Place the club across your chest with the grip-end facing the target (see below)
- Turn shoulders so that the grip end of the club points towards the golf ball. This is an exaggerated feeling designed to help you feel a downward shoulder turn. As you turn your chest to the right, the shoulders should turn down and inward–so as to achieve the proper movements of tilting, turning, and extending required to maintain your inclination to the golf ball.
Have a wonderful week and perfect that turn!
Tom Saguto, PGA